Ranking television shows is an impossible task, one that’s only gotten more difficult as there are fewer and fewer shows that everyone watches. There is little difference between number five and number three, so I am opting to chronologically rank them instead. Binge-watching television shows, as opposed to viewing them week-to-week, makes it harder to recall the details as you don’t have any time to process. As we near the end of the decade, here is a list of the shows no one should forget.
5. “30 Rock” (2006-2013)
Available on Hulu
Bizarre, hilarious and witty. Loosely based on Tina Fey’s experience as a head writer for “Saturday Night Live,” “30 Rock” follows Fey’s character, Liz Lemon, as the head writer and showrunner of the NBC sketch comedy show “TGS with Tracy Jordan.” She supervises the cast and crew, which includes her best friend Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), the difficult-to-manage Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan, “Green Eggs and Ham”) and network executive Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin, “Saturday Night Live”). Episodes often feature arguments between Donaghy’s conservative views against Lemon’s liberal ones, Maroney’s attempts to become a film star, Jordan’s poor behavior and their romantic and personal lives. It is extremely reflexive, making jokes about NBC and even satirizing Comcast’s acquisition of it.
4. “The Office” (2005-2013)
Available on Netflix
Based on the British show of the same name, “The Office” is a mockumentary-style sitcom that depicts the everyday lives of office employees in Scranton, Pennsylvania at the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. It employs a huge ensemble cast, most notably Steve Carell as Michael Scott, the well-intentioned yet often misunderstood regional manager who frequently ends up annoying his employees. The first season was met with mixed reviews but was followed by several seasons of critical acclaim. Although the final two seasons did not feature Carell (resulting in a large dip in quality), the show will always be remembered for being one of the first comedies in the United States without a laugh track to have solid ratings. There may never be a character like Michael Scott on television again, so get your last couple re-watches through because the show is heading to NBC’s own streaming platform in January of 2021. Until then, “The Office” remains Netflix’s most streamed show.
3. “Parks and Recreation” (2009-2015)
Available on Netflix
“Parks and Rec” is often compared to “The Office,” and people will get in heated debates about which show is better (I am, personally, Team Leslie). This mockumentary-style political satire sitcom stars Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, the deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana alongside her best friend Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones, “Angie Tribeca”). Additionally, it features a strong supporting cast that includes Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza and Chris Pratt. After receiving mixed reviews in the first season, Leslie Knope was reworked to be less ditzy, and seasons of critical acclaim followed, including sixteen Primetime Emmy nominations, two of which it ended up winning (comedy series and writing). The energy and positivity felt in “Parks and Rec” is unmatched by any show. Even years after its run, the cultural impact of “Parks and Rec” remains through laptop stickers and tapestries.
2. “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (2015-2019)
Available on Netflix
Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, the creators of “30 Rock” were tasked with creating a show starring Ellie Kemper for NBC before it was eventually sold to Netflix. The comparisons between these two shows can be felt through its quirky music and optimistic tone. It follows Kemper as the innocent Kimmy Schmidt, trying to catch up on fifteen years of her life in New York City after being kidnapped by a reverend in the fictional town of Durnsville, Indiana. She gets a job working for socialite Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski, “30 Rock”) and lives with the aspiring struggling actor Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess, “30 Rock”) and her street-smart landlord Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane, “The Princess Bride”). The decision to root Kimmy’s backstory in being held captive makes the show difficult to watch at times, but nevertheless “Unbreakable” will always be remembered for being the first Netflix original comedy series that was nominated for an Emmy every season.
1. “Veep” (2012-2019)
Available on HBO
This political satire follows the personal life and political career of Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “The New Adventures of Old Christine”) as the Vice President of the United States who is frequently ignored by her boss, with the lack of power and undesirability of her job being the punchline of most of the show. Her bagman/parasite/possible best friend, Gary Walsh (Tony Hale, “Arrested Development”) blindly supports her and is unable to find a single thing to criticize despite her willingness to betray everything and everyone at her disposal in order to gain power. Meyer is completely reliant on her team — including Chief of Staff Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky, “Hannibal”), Director of Communications Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) and Deputy Director of Communications Dan Egan (Reid Scott, “Will and Grace”) — and often finds herself in the middle of political scandals which they help to spin. In case there were any doubts that “Veep” is one of the funniest shows, it certainly gave audiences the most content to work with as it features the most jokes per minute on television.
“The Good Place”